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A PAIR OF LOUIS XVI ORMOLU THREE-BRANCH WALL-LIGHTS
A PAIR OF LOUIS XVI ORMOLU THREE-BRANCH WALL-LIGHTS

ATTRIBUTED TO PIERRE GOUTHIERE, CIRCA 1785

Details
A PAIR OF LOUIS XVI ORMOLU THREE-BRANCH WALL-LIGHTS
ATTRIBUTED TO PIERRE GOUTHIERE, CIRCA 1785
Each rectangular backplate depicting a winged putto with one arm raised, surrounded by foliate rose garlands, supporting an urn with a crown headed by a fleur-de-lys and issuing lily and laurel-branches with three candle nozzles, one foliate branch lacking, previously with small portrait medallions of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
32½ in. (83 cm.) high (2)
Provenance
Robert Goelet, Champ Soleil, Newport, Rhode Island; sold Parke Bernet Galleries, New York, 13-15 October 1966, lot 390 (a set of four).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's Monaco, 14 June 1982, lot 507.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Keck, sold Sotheby's New York, 5 December 1991, lot 19.
Anonymous sale (Private Collection); Sotheby's New York, 12 November 1999, lot 302.
Literature
G. & R. Wannenes, Les Bronzes Ornementaux et les Objets Montés, Milan, 2004, p. 264.

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Lot Essay

With their finely-chased foliate surround, contrasting two-tone gilding and prominent repoussé figures of cherubs, these unusual wall-lights are attributed to the celebrated ciseleur-doreur Pierre Gouthière (1732-c. 1813).

A REMARKABLE DECORATIVE REPERTOIRE
The backplates of the present wall-lights are centred by classically-draped winged putti, each modelled with one arm raised above his head, the other holding the drapery. They echo a remarkable design by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) featuring a related figure holding aloft a wreathed clock case, above a chimneypiece. This 'Etruscan' design was produced in Rome in 1769 for a chimney piece executed for John Hope (reproduced in J. Wilton-Ely, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the Complete Etchings, vol. II, San Francisco, 1994, p. 896, fig. 823).

The naturalistic lily branches issuing from the figural plaques relate closely to those on plaster models of candelabra exhibited by Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716-1791), director of the sculpture studio at Sèvres from 1759 to 1766, at the Salon du Louvre in 1761. Intended to be cast in silver, the plaster models were based on an earlier drawing depicting draped nymphs by Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (ill. H. Ottomeyer, P. Pröschel, et al., Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich, 1986, vol. I, p. 254, fig. 4.7.1).

PIERRE GOUTHIERE'S TECHNICAL PROWESS
Several of the techniques employed to execute the present wall-lights demonstrate Pierre Gouthière's training as a silversmith. The winged putti were worked in repoussé, which allowed for greater precision and freedom in modelling. Furthermore, silver soldering was used, again indicating the training of a silversmith for whom this would have been common practice.

Very characteristic and specific to the oeuvre of Gouthière, is the technique and finish known as the dorure au mat. 'The process involves coating the gilt bronze with a mixture of salts, called 'le mat' and heating it continuously above a fire. [...] The coating is thus removed from the gilt bronze pieces and, after being plunged in cold water, these appear matte. One can then burnish certain areas using brunissoirs' (Jacques Robiquet, Gouthière, sa vie - son oeuvre, Paris, 1912, p. 87).

RECORDED EXAMPLES OF THIS MODEL
Of this rare Royal model, only eight examples are known to exist. Some retain the portraits of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, confirming them as Royal commissions. These are:

- A pair in the Samuel H. Kress Collection (C.C. Dauterman, et.al, Decorative Art from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Aylesbury, 1964, pp. 277-9, cat. no. 69a-b, figs. 235-6). The latter pair is possibly that exhibited in Three French Reigns, Louis XIV, XV and XVI, Loan Exhibition in aid of the Royal Northern Hospital at 25 Park Lane [residence of Sir Philip Sassoon], 21 February - 5 April 1933, no. 540, where described as 'Two Appliques in Ormolu, Gouthière, Lent by Lord Duveen' (Princesse Bibesco, 'Trois Règnes, Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI', in 'La Renaissance', vol. 16, no. 6, June 1933, p. 121).

- A single wall-light featuring the crowned portrait medallion of Marie-Antoinette, formerly in the Jack and Belle Linsky Collection and subsequently sold 'The Property of the Estate of Belle Linsky', Sotheby's, New York, 21 May 1988, lot 86.

- A further pair, formerly in the collection of the Baronne Edouard de Rothschild, Paris, is illustrated in F. Morton, 'The House of Rothschild' in Holiday, vol. 30, no. 3, September 1961, p. 37.

Four further examples of this model, now lacking the crowned portrait medallions, exist: the wall-lights here offered and a pair formerly in the Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, sold Sotheby's, New York, 21 May 1985, lot 161. All four examples show redundant holes to the frieze, which indicate that they were originally fitted with the medallions, most probably removed during the Revolution.

The present wall-lights were sold from the Collection of the Late Robert Goelet, Champ Soleil, Newport, Rhode Island, Parke Bernet Galleries, New York, 13-15 October 1966, lot 390, as part of a set of four. It is unclear which other two wall-lights were sold as part of this set and whether they included any of the above recorded examples or constitute a further, unrecorded, pair. Given that the 1966 catalogue does not note the existence of portrait medallions on the unillustrated wall-lights, the other pair could well be that sold by the Linskys in 1985.

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